Podcast Simon & Maria – with Semyon Simonov

This week our guest is Semyon Simonov, a human rights activist from Sochi in Krasnodar region. For many years, Semyon Simonov has been head of the regional human rights NGO, Southern Human Rights Centre, which provided free legal assistance on human rights violations, organized educational events and facilitated other civic initiatives in collaboration with other NGOs until it effectively ceased to function in 2017 because of fines imposed under the ‘foreign agent’ law. On 20 July 2020 the authorities charged human rights activist Semyon Simonov under Art. 315, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code – i.e. a charge of non-execution of a court decision, in accordance with which the organization Southern Human Rights Centre had been fined under the ‘foreign agent’ law. Our podcast is about this case – although we also succeeded in asking Semyon many other questions, as you will heare.

Regarding the charges brought against Semyon Simonov, on 20 July 2020 Dunja Mijatovic, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, said in a statement: “Today’s indictment of Semyon Simonov, a Russian human rights defender in Sochi, for not complying with the legislation on non-commercial organisations is alarming and will have a massive chilling effect on the entire human rights community in Russia.

Human Rights Watch in a statement said: “This attack against a human rights defender demonstrates how the Russian authorities continue to use the repressive foreign agents law to criminalize the important work of independent groups. Not only should the case against Semyon Simonov be dropped immediately, but the foreign agents law needs to go.”

Frontline Defenders has also issued a statement on the case: “Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned by the indictment of Semyon Simonov and believes that the pressure on and harassment against him is a concerted attempt to effectively make it impossible for him to carry out his human rights activities in Russia. Front Line Defenders reiterates its concern regarding the extension of the “foreign agents” law to include individuals, as it places human rights defenders under increased risk and further hampers their peaceful and legitimate human rights work.”

In its press release on the case, Human Rights Watch noted: “Human Rights Defenders are afforded specific recognition and protection in international law to enable them to carry out their human rights work without undue interference. The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders underscores that everyone performing activities in defense of human rights has the right to seek the protection and realization of human rights at the national and international levels, to conduct human rights work individually and in association with others, to form associations and nongovernmental organizations, and to be protected in the event of violations. The declaration sets out a series of principles and rights drawn from international human rights instruments that are legally binding. It was adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly.”

This podcast is in Russian.

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The music from “Stravinsky’s Elegy for Viola Solo” is performed for us by Karolina Herrera.

Maria Karp is a London-based freelance translator, journalist and writer. She is the author of a recently published Russian biography of George Orwell and editor of the Orwell Society Journal.

Simon Cosgrove adds: If you want to listen to this podcast on the podcasts.com website and it doesn’t seem to play, please download by clicking on the three dots to the right. A summary of some of the week’s events in Russia relevant to human rights can be found on our website here

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